Published Date Written by Lloyd JonesBARTLETT — If the Bartlett School Board approves a new tentative contract with the teachers' union Tuesday evening, it may still face a large hurdle getting that contract into law. The board would need to petition the New Hampshire Supreme Court for a special school meeting but would need to prove that there is an emergency need for such a meeting.
The Bartlett Education Association and the Bartlett School Board reached a tentative agreement on a new contract for the 2012-13 school year last week. The school board will hold a special meeting Tuesday at 7 p.m. in the library at the Josiah Bartlett Elementary School, where the full board will be asked to vote on the contract. Should the board approve the contract, the board will then petition to the courts to hold a special school district meeting to bring another vote to the citizens.
"If the board votes to pass the contract then they would need to petition the court for a special meeting," superintendent Carl Nelson said.
If the board approves the contract but the court denies a special meeting, the tentative contract would either be nullified or brought before voters next spring at the regular district school meeting.
Voters shot down the contract 198-121 at school meeting on March 6. Within days of the defeat, the Bartlett Education Association contacted the board wanting to resume negotiations to see if a new deal coupled be brokered.
The New Hampshire Revised Statutes Annotated RSA 197 under School Meetings, five sets of criteria for a special meeting are laid out. In 197:3 Raising Money at Special Meeting, " I. (a) No school district at any special meeting shall raise or appropriate money nor reduce or rescind any appropriation made at a previous meeting, unless the vote thereon is by ballot, nor unless the ballots cast at such meeting shall be equal in number to at least half of the number of voters of such district entitled to vote at the regular meeting next preceding such special meeting; and, if a checklist was used at the last preceding regular meeting, the same shall be used to ascertain the number of legal voters in said district; and such checklist, corrected according to law, may be used at such special meeting upon request of 10 legal voters of the district. In case an emergency arises requiring an immediate expenditure of money, the school board may petition the superior court for permission to hold a special district meeting, which, if granted, shall give said district meeting the same authority as an annual district meeting.
"(b) 'Emergency' for the purposes of this section shall mean a sudden or unexpected situation or occurrence, or combination of occurrences, of a serious and urgent nature, that demands prompt or immediate action, including an immediate expenditure of money. This definition, however, does not establish a requirement that an emergency involves a crisis in every set of circumstances.
"(c) To verify that an emergency exists, a petitioner shall present, and the court shall consider, a number of factors including: (1) The severity of the harm to be avoided. (2) The urgency of the petitioner's need. (3) Whether the claimed emergency was foreseeable or avoidable. (4) Whether the appropriation could have been made at the annual meeting. (5) Whether there are alternative remedies not requiring an appropriation."
The school board could have avoided the possibility of a court appeal if it had placed a provision on the March warrant. Under 197-3, In the event that the legislative body at an annual meeting amends or rejects the cost items or fact finder's reports as submitted pursuant to RSA 273-A, notwithstanding paragraphs I and II, the school board may call one special meeting for the sole purpose of addressing all negotiated cost items without petitioning the superior court for authorization. Such special meeting may be authorized only by a contingent warrant article inserted on the warrant or official ballot either by petition or by the governing body. The wording of the question shall be as follows: 'Shall (the local political subdivision), if article __________ is defeated, authorize the governing body to call one special meeting, at its option, to address article __________ cost items only?' The refusal of the legislative body to authorize a special meeting as provided in this paragraph shall not affect any other provision of law. Any special meeting held under this paragraph shall be combined with the revised operating budget meeting under RSA 40:13, XI, if any, and shall not be counted toward the number of special meetings which may be held in a given calendar or fiscal year."
The contract that was rejected would have given 23 of the 32 teachers at the Josiah Bartlett Elementary School $2,700 pay raises each of the next two years (on the heels of already having received similar raises under the prior two-year contract) as well as provide 20 of them with $1,000 each year in longevity pay. Despite the contract failing, the teachers still received the $1,000 per year longevity pay, something they've been getting for a number of years, but is not included directly in the teacher salary.
Without a new contract, the parameters of the latest contract will remain in place. If the sides are unable to broker a deal, they could simply wait until next year's annual meeting to ratify a contract for 2013-14.
Nancy Kelemen, the vice chairman of the Bartlett School Board, joined colleague Dan Perley in negotiations on a new contract. Perley has represented the board in each of the past two contract negotiations. He and colleague Michael Murphy negotiated the most recent contract attempt that failed with Carol Penza, Vance Pickering and Kurt Erickson for the Bartlett Education Association.
"This is like regular negotiations at this point and time," Nelson explained in May. "The board is required to enter into good faith negotiations or they'll be in violation of the labor laws and an unfair labor practice. It will follow the regular process of negotiations and if they come to an agreement on whatever it happens to be then the board would have to petition to the court for a special meeting. It would be their obligation, otherwise it would be an unfair labor practice slapped on the board for not following through."